Some Things Never Get Old

March 20th, 2011

What a perfect way to spend a Saturday – day tripping to Boston to see a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious performance of Mary Poppins. We all know the movie, which debuted in 1964. But, the show first appeared on Broadway only recently – in 2006. The magic still transports us to another place, where anything is possible. The group who shared this experience will all agree, I think, that spending an afternoon in the theater is a special treat, no matter how many times we’ve heard the song, “A Spoonful of Sugar!”

We have many more exciting events on the horizon. Tom leaves for Ireland in a couple of weeks; we had a lovely pre-trip meeting for all those who will be visiting the Emerald Isle with Tom. That evening gathering reminded me that we offer a very special service to our clients who travel with us on our escorted tours. It’s not just about the week or two that we spend in Ireland, or Italy, or wherever. It’s about sharing a unique experience. The people who attend any given trip create a dynamic that can not be duplicated. Often, long lasting relationships are forged. That’s what I love about the tours we provide — it’s about the people who want to create amazing memories. It’s about the magic that happens when people allow themselves to be transported to another time and place, where anything is possible.

We are pleased to offer some wonderful travel opportunities –we still have room in our May trip to Lago Maggiore, for a week of creative writing in northern Italy. We also have a trip planned for Sicily in September. Looking ahead, we are planning a very special writing/environmental tour of Belize and a fairytale week in the Dordogne region of France. And, stay tuned for more day trip events. Also, we’d love to hear from you if you have a trip idea and want us to plan it!

Holly

In a Crisis, We are There for You

February 5th, 2011

When we book a vacation tour for our clients, we know that anything could happen to interrupt the best laid plans – volcano eruptions, airline strikes, hurricanes – but a revolution? We don’t usually consider that possibility. If you have been anywhere near a television, radio, or computer these past two weeks, you know that not only is a violent protest in progress in Egypt, but that many Americans are stranded there.

Two of our longtime clients spent more than two years planning a trip of a lifetime with Compass Travel agent Wendy Sisto, who had been to Egypt and who shared her enthusiasm for this ancient and historic region with them. Our clients left Logan Airport on Wednesday, January 26th and arrived on the following day. No one knew that trouble had already been brewing in the land of the Sphinx.

Midway through their first full day in Cairo, our travelers were told by their tour guide that he needed to leave them to join protesters in the city square. Almost immediately, things turned into something “out of a James Bond movie,” as one of the ladies described to us. Egypt is 7 hours ahead of us, so early Friday morning here in New Hampshire, late afternoon in Cairo, Wendy received her first call from them; they didn’t much care for political uprisings and wanted to go home.

Wendy immediately set the wheels in motion to do just that. She worked throughout the day and well into the wee hours of Saturday morning, in coordination with our tour operator, STI Travel-Sakkara International, both with their reps here in the United States and their tour professionals in Egypt, to get those two ladies on a plane back to the U.S. Remember, the Egyptian government had shut down all Internet access and cell phone service in the country; the situation was chaotic, to say the least.

When Wendy finally went to bed that Friday night, our clients were scheduled to board their flight home. At 7:30 am Saturday morning (EST), Wendy knew the plane was on its way to New York, but she did not know if they were on it. Finally, at noon, our tour agent called to confirm that they were indeed on that flight, and would land at Kennedy Airport that evening. Wendy went to work to arrange a flight back to Boston, but there were no seats available. She called the family of one of the travelers and they hatched a plan. At 7:30 pm, while monitoring the arrivals into Kennedy from her computer, Wendy received a call from those weary travelers asking if they had a connecting flight home. She was happy to tell them her surprise—family members were there to greet them. Wendy had also offered to drive the six hours to pick them up.

That’s how our agents work. I commend Wendy for her tireless efforts to get those two wonderful women home from a very frightening, often uncertain turn of events. No one can predict these things. But, we can assure our clients that once they buy their tickets from us, we are with them all the way! Thank you, Wendy for a job well done.

Italy is calling…

January 4th, 2011

“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” – Anna Akhmatova –

I love this quote, because it is so true. Our clients agree. This May, Luigi and I invite you to join us as we head to Lago Maggiore in northern Italy for a very special retreat. It’s where Luigi, my husband, grew up. Together, we will join Deb McKew of Words in Play Writing Workshops for a magical week. Deb has planned an exceptional program of creative joy with two guest instructors. You don’t have to be a writer to enjoy the adventure with us in this timeless, ageless land of unparalleled beauty and inspiration.

When we plan our escorted tours, we often host fun and informational gatherings so travelers get to meet others who may be going on the trip. We’re planning two in the next week for this very special trip:

Sunday, January 9 — 4:00 – 6:00 PM at Compass Travel, New London, NH

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Tuesday, January 11 — 5:30 – 7:00 PM at Left Bank Bookstore, 9 South Main Street, Hanover, NH

We hope you can join us!

Share the adventure with fellow creative souls.

Come live the dream with us!

Visit Words in Play to imagine the possibilities.

Ciao!

Happy Holidays!

December 16th, 2010

2010 is winding down and what a year it’s been. Volcanoes and oil spills, tornadoes and war-torn cities — we have all felt the impact of both man and nature’s wrath on the environment. However, the good news is that there are still many beautiful, pristine, culturally exquisite places to visit on this Earth. We are looking forward to a new year with lots of adventure and lots of laughter. There are forces we cannot control, but there are many pieces to our lives that we can control. One, never take the present for granted. Enjoy it, treasure it, and share it. That is a great philosophy to live by.

We at Compass Travel want to thank all our clients, those we have sent off on their own travels, and those who have traveled with us. We love what we do, we enjoy the moment and the anticipation of joy we feel in helping you cross the globe.

We wish you all the best and brightest happiness for this holiday season and for the coming year. Happy Travels!

Holly, Wendy, Allie, Rose, and Tom

If it’s Thursday, it must be Florence

November 11th, 2010

Last Friday, Luigi and I left Logan Airport with a group of Colby-Sawyer College alumni for an Italian odyssey. What a fun group. We started our tour of northern Italy at the one place I can truly say is heaven on Earth – Lago Maggiore (aka the Lake of Dreams) in the Italian Alps. What a magical place — we spent a few days exploring the little towns around this area, taking a train through the mountains into Switzerland — an unforgettable ride.

Next, we journeyed to the fabled Italian Riviera and just lapped it all up. I heard there was snow in New Hampshire. Nothing but sunshine here!

We are now in Florence, the center of the world, if you are an art enthusiast. No matter how many times I visit Florence, the view never gets old. On Saturday, we will tour a winery in Tuscany and enjoy a cooking class with a master chef. We are really excited about that! There is no better food to be found in the world, than in Italy.

For those of you who are now drooling, don’t worry, we are planning two escorted trips to Italy for 2011 — as someone once said, Italy is a dream that keeps returning…

Ciao!

Holly

Day Tripping

July 30th, 2010

There is nothing like spending a day on the coast of Maine on a beautiful summer day. Last week, a group of more than 40 traveled with us to the Ogunquit Playhouse, “America’s Foremost Summer Theatre,” to see a delightful production of the classic, The Sound of Music. The Playhouse,  founded in 1933, has kept musical theatre alive and well beyond the bright lights of Broadway. So much history and so much talent on that stage.

For lunch, we dined at the contemporary American bistro, MC Perkins Cove, named for its owners Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, voted 2010 Best Chefs of the Northeast by the James Beard Foundation. The food was outmatched only by the spectacular ocean views.

We love getting feedback like this: “Thank you for a perfect day last Thursday in Ogunquit…Lunch couldn’t have been nicer having lobster rolls with an ocean view, enjoying the terrific performance…as well as strolling by the sea.”

We had such a good time on this excursion we plan to make it an annual event.

I would like to thank our trip co-sponsors, our friends and neighbors, Lake Sunapee Bank. We are planning our next theatre trip to Boston to see Wicked at the Boston Opera House in October. Not to be missed!

Keep checking our site for new tours and day trips. We are happy to hear your suggestions for possible trips as well. Stay tuned…

Happy Summer

June 20th, 2010

Although the weather is hot here in New Hampshire, our staff is thinking cold weather…no, it’s not too early to be booking your holiday flights. Why pay peak rates, when you can get great deals now? If you have college students who need flights home over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, we recommend you book those now, as well.

Giuseppe Verdi, composer of some of the world’s best Italian operas, once said, “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” Well, I could not agree with him more. Every time I travel to Italy, I revel in its beauty, and its ability to charm. So, if you happen to notice more trips lined up for that wondrous place on earth, do not be surprised. Oh, sure, we’ll still go to other places; I love exploring new ports of call. BUT, I will return again and again to Italy, for sure. My joy is enhanced by sharing the experience with others. So, check out our upcoming tours to Cortona, Lake Maggiore, and Sicily.

To whet your appetitie, this is the restaurant in our hotel, the Bellevue Syrene. We sat overlooking the ocean (a gorgeous view) every day!

The drive along the coast was truly dramatic; I could almost imagine Neptune appearing out of the sea!

From Holly’s Desk…

May 27th, 2010

Welcome to our new website. This is an exciting adventure for us, here at Compass Travel. We have been planning our new platform for months and are thrilled to offer this valuable online service to our clients.

It is believed that the compass was invented during the Qin dynasty in China, about 220 B.C. Since that time, explorers have relied on this simple magnetic device to help them find their way across unknown territories. I thought it was appropriate to entitle my blog Compass Points because our role is to help you navigate the globe, pointing you in the direction you want to go.

I will be posting a blog entry every week or so to keep you abreast of news and events happening here at Compass Travel and in the wider world. I hope you will check in regularly to see what’s up!

Throughout this site, you will find information about our staff and the services we provide, our escorted tours, ideas for trips to suit your every desire, great travel tips, and links to some of our favorite sites. We hope you will take the time to explore these pages and dream about your next adventure. We are here to help you with the many details of planning so that you will be assured an enjoyable trip. You can even follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for news and updates!

Also, we would enjoy hearing from you — please send us any comments, ideas, experiences, photos, post cards and travel tips that you would like to share with us. And, remember this sentiment from Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Holly Walker, Owner, Compass Travel

Reprinted from the Kearsarge Shopper, January 2010

From Holly (in Italy)…

May 5th, 2010

Greetings from Italy!

Today we have been exploring Amalfi, a picturesque 6th century town along the Amalfi Coast, in southern Italy. The water seems to blend every shade of blue imaginable and the sheer cliffs overlooking the sea are truly spectacular. It is enchanting! Everyone is having a wonderful time. I will try to write more soon — between dining and shopping!

And, don’t worry if you missed this tour. We have another Italy tour coming up in October…

Ciao!

From Holly’s Desk…

April 21st, 2010

The volcano isn’t the only eruption

Two ladies stranded in Brussels, a businessman bogged down in London on a four-leg trip through Europe, 12 high school students grounded in Paris, our escorted Ireland trip on hold—it’s been a hectic week here at Compass Travel. The volcano crisis highlights what we’ve been saying for years: if you travel with us, you can breathe easier when things go wrong. And, they do go wrong. Not all the time, not to this extent, but why take the chance?

This morning, a woman stopped in to our office and tearfully explained her plight. She had been visiting her parents in New London, but needed to get back home to Germany. Unfortunately, she had booked her overseas flight online and was getting no response from the website. Unanswered calls to the airline left her frustrated and angry. Could we please help, she asked.

Professional and efficient, Wendy took up the cause; she immediately contacted Lufthansa and was able to book a new flight for this woman. “I guarantee, once you start working with us,” I overheard Wendy say, “you will never do it on your own again.”

Late last Sunday night, I came into the office to rebook a dozen stranded students who were scheduled to fly home from Paris today. I knew the backlog of flights would probably cause a cancellation for them even if the ash clouds started to diminish; once flights resumed, the airports in Europe would experience the biggest bottleneck in history. The kids will be back home by Sunday, much to the relief of their parents.

It takes a crisis of this magnitude to really highlight the deficiencies in the online travel industry. Our experienced agents were able to rebook flights, arrange lodging for weary travelers around the world, monitor changing conditions hourly, offer options and empathy, and bring some order to the chaos caused by that pesky volcano. Let me know if your computer could help you do all that.

From some of our happy travelers:

“Wendy, thank you for the call today and the offer to help me over the weekend. I was very impressed with the support you offered me; it’s a clear reminder of why I count on Compass Travel for my planning.” A businessman trying to get to Zurich

“We appreciate all you and your staff have done for us. It’s a lot easier to deal with life’s little bumps in the road when we have great people back in the States doing all they can to help from a distance.” A mother and daughter on vacation in Brussels